Google’s featured snippets are like Authorship – we don’t know how long they’ll last, but we keep talking about them.
Now, many search marketers would argue the usefulness of this SERP feature for an obvious reason: featured snippets steal clicks from search results. Many people see the answer to their question right within the Google SERP and never bother to check lower results or even click through to any listings at all (including the featured one).
And I totally agree with this point: Google is stealing clicks from us, the publishers. But how does this argument help? Being angry or irritated with Google won’t help you or your clients. Either your pages get featured or your competitors’ are. And better that it’s yours, because featured snippets do get clicked.
Now, we’ve all been through hundreds of articles on optimizing for this or that and at some point, we get really tired of the clutter. Basically, it comes down to how good and in-depth your content is, so do we really need separate strategies for every other Google Update?
So this article isn’t really about optimizing for Google’s featured snippets or how important it is to do so. It’s about how optimizing for featured snippets will help you make your content better because after all, that’s what matters the most.
More Varied Keyword Research Techniques and Keyword Clustering
One good thing that happened to our industry, thanks to the featured snippets, is the need for more keyword research tools and tactics; We’ve started researching niche questions.
And thanks to that, we now have new tools popping up, giving us new insight into what our target audience needs and wants.
Just a few of those tools that use all sorts of data to help marketers with query research are:
The simplest tool on the list, this one identifies question-type queries that come up in Google Suggest feature and creates a mind-map based on the question word in each one.
Buzzsumo uses its own database of discussion boards, forums and q&a websites, as well as Amazon Q&A, to generate a list of related questions based on your core term. A great thing about this tool is that it uses semantic analysis to identify related core terms and generate the list of questions for those too:
This broadens the scope of related topics you may want to cover in your content to target more search queries. It’s no longer simply about extending your core term to identify long-tail queries with lower competition.
Apart from offering us useful filters to show queries that use question words, Serpstat also helps us cluster those questions effectively, allowing us to cover a lot of related questions within one article. Click any word in the tag cloud to filter results down to those questions that only have that word in them.
Here’s how you can use Excel to cluster all of these closely-related questions to form the structure of the article:
The search for niche questions also brings us to natural language research, so we start looking for ways to tap into what our customers may be talking about in real time. Twitter search is a perfect medium for that research. Use ? after a space following your query when searching Twitter and filter your search to real-time questions:
You can then use a Twitter monitoring dashboard like Cyfe to monitor those questions to be able to add those questions to your content plan:
Playing with Different Ways to Organize Your Content
There is no single type of format that’s going to make your content more likely to be featured, at least as far as we know. But if you’ve been paying attention to your searches, you’ll have noticed that there are some styles that are preferable: Google prefers well-structured content, numbers and facts.
These include tables, graphs, numbered lists, and structured subheadings paragraphs. This pushes the content creator to make the content very factual and well-organized.
FAQ’s are a popular way to gain a featured snippet. It’s easy to create headings (under an h1 or h2 tag) that include the question. Then you can use the <p> tag for paragraphs to help optimize them for crawlers. Just like that, you can have dozens of chances of being featured while answering questions you know your user base has.
The reason I love the FAQ option so much is that not only will it potentially be featured, but it is also great for upping overall ranking. So you’re killing two birds with one stone, reaching searchers from multiple platforms whether they are in a browser or searching via voice. There have been multiple WordPress themes popping up that let you create content that addresses questions effectively using FAQs and knowledge bases.
The takeaway is that you don’t have to optimize specifically for Google’s featured snippets because there’s no required markup for that. But targeting the feature pushes you to improve your overall content strategy by encouraging you to look into tools and content formats you haven’t tried before.
Have you been featured yet? Which tactics can you share that got you featured and how did it change your keyword research and content creation strategy?